MSI Gaming N780 TF 3GD5/OC GeForce GTX 780 Reviewccokeman - August 1, 2013
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MSI Gaming N780 TF 3GD5/OC GeForce GTX 780 Closer Look:
As we saw with the GTX 770 Gaming series card, the GTX 780 is a great looking card that should look right at home in any of the red and black themed boards on the market, including MSI's own Z87-GD65. Equipped with large 100mm PWM-controlled propeller blade technology fans, the GTX 780 should handle any cooling situation. What you get with MSI's GTX 780 Gaming series card is a custom PCB built for use with NVIDIA's GK110 core. The back side of the PCB does not have much of interest, but you get a couple Hi-C caps right under the core to provide some added core voltage stability. Looking at the top and bottom views of the GTX 780 Gaming we can see that the dual slot Twin Frozr IV cooling solution uses a total of five heat pipes to carry the thermal load from the core to the aluminum fin array. Four are 6mm in size and come out the bottom side of the heat sink, while a single larger 8mm heat pipe pops out of the top side looping back into the aluminum fin array. MSI's GTX 780 Gaming is designed for use in a 16x PCIe 3.0 slot on a supporting motherboard but is backwards compatible to earlier standards. Size wise the GTX 780 Gaming is 10.25 inches in length allowing for fitment in just about any chassis on the market.
Display connectivity on the MSI Gaming N780 TF 3GD5/OC is standard fare for Kepler architecture-based video cards with a single Dual Link DVI-D, Dual Link DVI-I, HDMI 1.4a port, and a full size DisplayPort. A 3+1 display configuration is supported using the available display outputs. Surround gaming is supported on a single card while adding a 3D Vision system for 3D Surround will mean you are going to have to add another GTX 780 in SLI to really enjoy the experience. MSI ships the card with plugs and covers to prevent dust or debris buildup on the un-used connection points. The I/O mounting bracket supports discharging the thermal load outside the chassis but the design of the Twin Frozr IV cooling solution is going to dictate that most of the thermal load is going to go inside the chassis. The good thing is that most newer chassis have a way to compensate for this with improved airflow. The back end of the card is wide open allowing the thermal load out from under the shroud and into the chassis' airstream.
A pair of SLI bridge connections hints at the SLI support for this card, running up to four cards in a motherboard that supports the technology. Along the spine of the PCB and under the Twin Frozr IV heat sink runs an aluminum brace and heat sink used to stiffen the PCB as well as cool the memory modules under the main heat sink. Power for the MSI GTX 780 Gaming is supplied by a single 6-pin and single 8-pin PCIe power connectors. A 600 watt power supply is going to be recommended to handle the 229 watt TDP on this card. Factory overclocked and cooled it carries the same operating TDP as the reference version.
Once you pull Twin Frozr IV cooling solution off of the PCB, an aluminum PCB support/memory cooler is visible. Its purpose is to both improve structural rigidity and function as additional cooling for the memory modules and Military Class IV power circuitry. A black PCB is used on this card and meshes nicely with the design. Once the PCB support/memory cooler is removed, the power supply layout on the PCB is clearly visible. MSI uses its Military Class IV components selection that includes solid aluminum capacitors (ten year increase in longevity), new Super Ferrite chokes (SFC 30% power handling increase), and tantalum core Hi-C caps (stabilize power delivery). This construction philosophy is meant to improve efficiency, longevity, and the current handling capabilities to drive increased overclocking potential. Towards the rear of the PCB is a small riser that holds the ON Semi-conducter NCP4206 voltage controller used to manage the power phases on this card.
One of the main features of the MSI GTX 780 Gaming is the Twin Frozr IV cooling solution. Its advanced thermal design is one of the hallmarks of the GAME philosophy that MSI strives to deliver to gamers who want to just put the card in the system and start fraggin'. A cursory view shows the five heat pipe design on this fourth generation of the Twin Frozr design. It uses a total of five (four x 6mm + one x 8mm) heat pipes in a direct contact design that delivers the thermal load to the large aluminum fin array. The fin array is where MSI spent some design time by using air diverters to direct the airflow through as much of the fin array as possible so that it spends more time in the heat sink, presumably to increase the thermal transfer and cooling efficiency. After my testing this technology seems to work well with such a thin fin array. The contact surface is flat and makes great contact with the large GK110 die.
Airflow through the dual slot Twin Frozr cooling solution is provided by a pair of 100mm PWM-controlled propeller blade fans. Using this type of fan is needed to push the higher static pressure needs of the heat sink. Noise characteristics of these fans at stock speeds are great. For the most part these fans are dead silent when controlled by the GPU and NVIDIA's latest fan control algorithms. When ramped up they are still relatively quiet by comparison to the already muffled reference cooling solution. This part of the advanced thermal design concept is another check mark for gamers and power users alike. You get a cool, quiet, high performance discrete GPU. Each of the fans mounts to the shroud instead of the heat sink as I have seen on some cards. Not that one is better than the other.
MSI is using the latest iteration of the 28nm GK110 core that houses 7.1 billion transistors. On the GTX 780 we get four or five Graphics Processing Clusters, 12 SMX with 192 CUDA cores that takes us up to the 2304 core count, 1.5MB of shared L2 cache, 198 Texture units, 48 ROPs, and a drop to 3GB of GDDR5 memory running through the still new 6x64-bit (384-bit) bus. Clock speeds are set dynamically based on how GPU Boost 2.0 manages the thermals and power windows. Out of the box we see a base core clock of 954MHz on the 2304 CUDA cores with a boost clock of 1006Mhz or higher on the core with 1502MHz on the GDDR5 memory. Samsung supplies the 3GB of frame buffer on the MSI GTX 780 although the exact IC is difficult to identify.
After seeing what the GTX 770 Gaming was capable of I am anticipating that the GTX 780 Gaming will perform similarly across the board.